Laser hair removal devices work on the principle of a process known as selective photothermolysis. This means that light selects a target and gets absorbed by that target, leaving other skin components almost untouched. The light absorption in turn creates enough heat to cause the damage to the target (chromophore) and to produce the results.
Here the steps
- Laser device sends a beam of light into the skin
- Laser light typically targets the pigment (melanin) in the root of the hair
- The energy from the laser converts into heat
- Heat is passed out to the surrounding tissue and hair bulb/follicle heats up
- Hair follicle is effectively destroyed due to excessive heat (approx 70C degrees)
Laser hair removal is effective in permanent hair reduction for most people. After only 6-8 sessions most people see very little or no regrowth for up to 6-12 months
Hair Removal Risk Factors
The truth is there are no medical treatments available with zero potential hazards. IPL hair removal and laser hair removal are no exception. The side effects involved can be temporary (15min) or long term (months, years or even permanent). I also categorise side effects into common and rare.
Temporary side effects
These can be experienced immediately after the procedure. These are “normal” reactions which should not worry you. Generally these last anywhere between 15 minutes to 2 hrs and very rarely for a day or two. If they last for a day or two please inform your therapist as this information is valuable to us and allows us to get close but not over your skin’s threshold.
- Discomfort (not pain)
- Tingling sensation (not burning)
- A sensation that something’s been done to skin
- Burns (very rare if done professionally but not impossible)
- Blistering (very rare if done professionally but not impossible)
Longer term SIde effects
- Hyperpigmenation – darkening of treated site (can happen on its own or after a burn). Usually presents in patches of the same size and shape as crystal guide on the hand piece. Resolves itself in 2days – 8weeks. Product and treatment support should be available in reputable clinics to help it resolve faster.
- Hypopigmentation – lightening of treated site (usually follows a burn). Same presentation except the skin is lighter than natural skin tone. May take months or years to resolve. May be permanent.
What to do to avoid complications
What Laser operator need to do
- Training, training and more IPL training – every training sessions will give you something new, a new idea, a new tip. Invest in your training
- Regular equipment maintenance of your IPL or laser device is absolutely necessary to ensure the right energy output (and calibration)
- Patient Care. Complete skin/ hair analysis for every single patient before you treat them
- Assess Risks. Take comprehensive medical and medications history as well as any natural/herbal history
- Sun Exposure. Assess lifestyle history – will the client stay away from the sun? If not how can you make it a safe treatment?
- Test Patch. You will see how your patient’s skin reacts to treatment if you test on a few parameters a week before treatment
What Clients can do
- Avoid sun exposure or solariums for 4-6 weeks before and after each session
- No fake tan for 3 weeks before the treatment. You can apply fake tan 24hrs after your treatment
- Reseach the place and only use a reputable IPL or laser clinic and skilled operators
- Interview your potential treatment therapist to ensure you are completely satisfied with their level of expertise
- Advice your therapist of ALL medications, herbs, homoeopathics and topical preparations including natural ones
- Advice your therapist if you have any history of abnormal scar formation or if you have reacted to light based treatment before
- Avoid waxing or plucking the area for at least 3 weeks prior to the procedure for better results